Soul Jazz Records Presents APALA: Apala Groups in Nigeria 1967-70

Various Artists
Soul Jazz Records Presents APALA: Apala Groups in Nigeria 1967-70

If you’re a Westerner, chances are that your understanding of Nigerian music from the '60s and '70s skews toward stuff like highlife, jùjú, and Afrobeat—hybrid styles that blended regional music with funk, jazz, rock, and soul. Compiled by the long-running Soul Jazz Records, APALA offers a different picture. Developed by the Yoruba people during the late 1930s, apala used traditional instruments (shakers, bells, talking drums) and tended to stick to Koranic themes—a conservative approach that doubled as cultural pushback against British colonial rule. Most of the tracks here take a similar form: powerful call-and-response vocals; tight, intricate percussion patterns; and a religious intensity that borders on hypnotic. (The famed Haruna Ishola, represented on about a quarter of the tracks here, was said to have a voice so powerful that it could kill its recipients if not used with restraint—a good story if nothing else.) And though the musicians documented here rejected Western influence (the occasional guitar—on Rapheal Ajide’s “Adura Fun Osiwowo,” for example—is mostly a rhythmic instrument), consider the percussion crossfire of Adebukola Ajao’s “Aboyin Ile” or the bounce of R.A. Tikalosoro’s “Agilinti Lomu” and see if something other than “funky” comes to mind.

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